According to the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP), there are 10.4 million residential and 309,000 public swimming pools in the United States. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an agency that is independent of the US government, states that despite the numbers being down 11 percent nationwide since 2010, “Between 2013 and 2015, an estimated 5,600 children under 15 years old were treated each year in hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal drownings in pools or spas.”
Numbers this large suggest that despite stricter laws and regulations around pools, there’s a great deal of work still to be done to ensure that owners and operators of spas and pools fully understand the responsibilities that come with maintaining these sources of summer fun. Various people, groups, organizations and governmental entities at every level from international to local have introduced or implemented an abundance of measures to better protect the public from accidents like unintentional drowning, one of the leading causes of death for children under 15 years old.
Virginia Graeme Baker
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), an advocate for safety measures to reduce child fatalities in her state of Florida due to unintentional drowning, partnered with Nancy Baker in the early 2000s to work on improving pool safety. Baker, an advocate of pool and spa safety had been hard at work lobbying Congress in hopes of passing legislation to require anti-entrapment drain covers for pools, spas and hot tubs, as well as other safety devices. In an instance of unimaginable tragedy, Nancy lost her seven-year-old daughter Virginia in June of 2002 due to an accident wherein the little girl’s hair became tangled in an unprotected hot tub drain, drowning her. Virginia’s death – and the determination of her mother and Schultz – resulted in the introduction and subsequent inclusion of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB Act) in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) as Title XIV. After the VGB Act was passed, manufacturers were required to make various pool devices follow standards of both including unblockable drain covers and installing safety vacuum release systems to prevent tragedies like the one that befell Virginia.
Everything about a pool – from from the building materials and construction to the various equipment and chemicals used in them – are subject to the scrutiny of numerous regulatory entities to make sure that owners, operators and contractors adhere to all laws and regulations set forth by the federal, state and local governments.
One such entity is the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which, along with the 50 state attorneys general, has jurisdiction over thousands of consumer products, including many aspects involved with pools, spas, and hot tubs. The laws and regulations that govern pools and spas do not stop just there. As a result of the Virginia Graeme Baker tragedy, the aforementioned EISA called upon the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as well as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) to formulate standards that manufacturers of pool devices must also comply with.